Ahmedabad: Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa S and Delhi’s Rashid Khan lived up to their reputation of being the tournament favourites at the PGTI Ahmedabad Masters presented by Kalhaar Blues & Greens, as they began the week with first round scores of five-under-67 to be the joint leaders.
Defending champion Khalin Joshi, another Bengalurean, and Patna-based rookie Aman Raj and Jaipur’s Vishal Singh shared the third spot as they trailed the leaders by one stroke.
Reigning Rolex Ranking champion Chikkarangappa, the winner of PGTI’s last event in Bengaluru, continued his hot streak as he posted a solid opening round of 67 at the picturesque Kalhaar Blues & Greens on Tuesday.
Chikka, high on confidence from his win last week, was on the button right away, as he began the tournament with a 15-feet birdie conversion on the first. He followed that up with four straight birdies from the fifth to the eighth, where he sank three, 12 to 18 feet putts, and also set up a tap-in from the bunker.
The two-time winner on the Asian Development Tour then had a rollercoaster back-nine. Chikka dropped a shot on the 11th but came back with an eagle chip-in on the next hole. The 22-year-old then conceded a double-bogey on the 13th as a result of finding the water. However, he finally managed to pull one stroke back with a birdie on the closing 18th.
Chikka said, “Even though I won last week, I had struggled with my putting. But I’m happy that today I regained my touch with the putter. I’m also hitting longer thanks to my improved fitness and strength.
“I was going really well till the turn, having been 5-under. I think I could’ve taken advantage of that position and finished better. Nonetheless, I realize it’s going to be a tough week to score low, so I’m quite happy with my first round effort.
“One needs to hit it well off the tee here and place it nicely on the fairway as the water hazards come into play on almost every hole. If you’re driving it around 270 to 280 yards, you have a good chance of avoiding trouble. I feel that’s going to be my strength this week,” added Chikka, a winner of nine titles.
Two-time Asian Tour winner Rashid Khan, also displayed fine form with the putter on day one to match Chikka’s 67. Rashid, who won a PGTI event in Noida last month, drained six birdie putts from a range of 10 to 15 feet. He dropped a lone bogey on Tuesday.
“The win in Noida was a big morale-booster for me. I’ve carried the confidence from that performance into this week. In between, I also had a decent outing at the European Masters in Switzerland which had a world-class field. The tied 41st finish there, helped my confidence soar further,” said a confident Rashid.
Khalin Joshi had a dream start to the tournament as he reeled off birdies on his first three holes (10th to 12th). Joshi had two consecutive chip-ins on the 10th and 11th before he picked up another stroke on the par-5 12th. He followed that up with a bogey and two more birdies for a well-deserved four-under-68.
Vishal Singh, like Khalin, also made five birdies and a bogey, while rookie Aman Raj produced six birdies and two bogeys, to join Joshi in tied third place.
Bengaluru’s Udayan Mane and Mhow’s Om Prakash Chouhan were tied sixth after rounds of three-under-69.
Ahmedabad-based amateur Varun Parikh shot an even-par-72 to be tied 19th. Parikh was the highest-placed local golfer at the end of round one.